Prosecutors on Thursday brought new charges in the murder case against the white Chicago cop shown on a police dashcam video fatally shooting an African-American teenager in 2014.
A Cook County grand jury on March 16 indicted Officer Jason Van Dyke on 23 felony counts, special prosecutor Joseph McMahon said at a hearing in the Leighton Criminal Courts Building. Van Dyke had previously only been charged with seven felony counts in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014.
The new charges are 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, seemingly one for each shot Van Dyke is accused of firing at McDonald. The other charges — six counts of first-degree murder and one of official misconduct — are the same as those handed up by a different grand jury 15 months ago.
McMahon declined to discuss the new indictment, pointing to a “decorum order” imposed by the case’s judge, Vincent Gaughan.
The new charges add possibilities for a verdict on charges less serious than murder. Seeking the new indictment also gave McMahon an opportunity to address issues about evidence presented to the first grand jury by former State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office.
Van Dyke’s attorney, Dan Herbert, raised those issues in two motions to dismiss the case. The first, filed in January, claimed that the grand jury had considered statements that officers were compelled to give by police bosses.
Herbert described the second motion during a February hearing. He said Alvarez’s office “deceived” and “misinformed” the grand jury “in a rush to sacrifice Jason Van Dyke to the angry mob that was out there.”
Herbert said Alvarez’s office wrongly told grand jurors that Van Dyke’s first shot was in McDonald’s back and that cops tampered with audio and video recordings of the shooting.
Gaughan did not rule on either motion but said in court that he would hold evidentiary hearings in public about them.
At Thursday’s hearing, Gaughan kept the transcript of last week’s grand-jury proceedings hidden from the public.
Herbert entered a not-guilty plea and said he planned to continue seeking the case’s dismissal.
“We understand it’s a new indictment but we certainly do not waive any of our previous arguments and we’re going to likely file a motion, under the new indictment number, [that] contains some of the same arguments,” Herbert told the judge.
Van Dyke is accused of killing McDonald on October 20, 2014, after responding to a police-radio dispatch requesting help for officers pursuing a knife-wielding male who allegedly had been breaking into trucks on the Southwest Side.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration withheld the video until a Cook County judge ordered its release in November 2015.
The video sparked months of street protests and a yearlong U.S. Justice Department investigation of the police department. That probe found widespread evidence of unconstitutional use of force.
Alvarez last May recused her office from the Van Dyke case after civil-rights advocates claimed she had a conflict of interest — a claim she denied.
Gaughan swore in McMahon, Kane County’s state’s attorney, as special prosecutor in August. Gaughan has not set a trial date.
Separately, a Cook County special grand jury has issued subpoenas related to an alleged police cover-up after the shooting.
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson has also recommended that the city’s Police Board fire Van Dyke and four other officers involved in the incident. Those proceedings are on hold pending Van Dyke’s criminal trial.